The Importance of Purifying the Mind

Revised October 25, 2019

1. Analysis of a given situation always needs to be taken in the proper context. Let us again listen to Dr. Feynman’s video that was in the previous post, “Foundation of Dhamma.”

  • It is worthwhile to discuss the case of an icy surface to look a bit deeper than even Dr. Feynman did. He merely pointed out that there is no end to the sort of questions especially when a child keeps asking: “what is the reason for that?” at every step: “Why is Aunt Mimi in the hospital?” leads to the answer, “She fell on ice”. Then, “Why did she fall on ice?” leads to “Because ice is slippery”, which leads to, “Why is ice (and not concrete) slippery ?”.
Material Phenomena – No “Ultimate” Explanation

2. Up to this point, the child (or an average adult) can understand each answer, BECAUSE, based on their life experiences, all those answers make sense. But the last question cannot be answered to the complete satisfaction of a child or an average adult, who does not have a background in physics.

  • Unlike most other solids, ice has this peculiar property. When water is cooled, it expands when turning into ice.
  • So, when Aunt Mimi stepped on the ice, the pressure of her weight caused ice to shrink (i.e., become water). Thus a thin layer of water was formed between her shoes and ice, which causes her to slide and fall. Other solids tend to get more hardened under pressure, so there no slipping due to that particular cause.

3. Now one DOES NOT need to know that bit of physics to avoid falling on ice. What was required to prevent falling was to have a keen sense of knowing that ice is slippery and one needed to take necessary precautions.

  • May be Aunt Mimi was in an agitated state of mind and hurried out of the door without realizing that there was a thin sheet of ice on the driveway. If she were drunk, that would have also lead to the same result.  If she were in a calm, relaxed state of mind, she would have been more careful.
  • An agitated mind can result from excess greed and hate too. Most people do not realize this, but if we think back, each of us can remember instances where we made bad decisions because of greedy or hateful state of mind. That is why getting into heated arguments can be risky. People even kill in a moment of rage.
Buddha Dhamma – Mind at the Forefront

4. The teachings of the Buddha are unique. The mind is at the forefront, not material phenomena; see, “Manōpubbangamā Dhammā..

  • Material phenomena originate with the mind. A deeper and lengthy discussion at, “Origin of Life.”
  • But in order to understand those deep teachings, one’s mind must be calm and clear. There are five things called hindrances that cause our minds to be clouded; see, “Key to Calming the Mind – Five Hindrances.” These have accumulated via bad habits that we have developed over countless lives; see, for example, “The Law of Attraction, Habits, Character (Gati), and Cravings (Asavas).”
  • Each one has a different set of bad habits, but we all have them. Yet we can function “in this world” with that “baseline”(for example not fall while walking on ice), if we do not make it worse by substance abuse, or making the mind agitated (by getting angry or overly greedy), etc.
Living a Moral Life Is Not Enough

5. Most people live their lives without resorting to extreme behaviors. That still does not allow us to see the true nature of “this world.” We are just carried by the tide without us trying to examine whether it is a good idea to “just go with the flow.”

  • We do our best to make our lives better (materially) and eventually die without knowing that all those life struggles were in vain at the end.
Importance of the Rebirth Process

6. The worse thing is that the story does not end at death, but moves on to another phase (rebirth), where we will be doing precisely the same again.

  • We have gone through this unending process for innumerable lives. Most of those have been much worse than our current human life. If one learns true Buddha Dhamma, one will “see” the fruitlessness of our struggles to seek happiness in a “world” that is inherently not able to provide that. Then one will try to get out of “this world” by following the Noble Eightfold Path of the Buddha and achieve permanent happiness.
  • That is the crux of the message of the Buddha.
  • We will be able to “see” the truth in the above paragraph (i.e., the true nature of “this world”) if we start cleaning our minds to get rid of the five hindrances (see, “How to Calm the Mind” ).
  • There is mounting evidence for rebirth; see, “Evidence for Rebirth.”
A Wider Worldview

7. A wider worldview is necessary for the rebirth process. We need to understand the broader view of “this world” of the Buddha. Many people plunge into “practicing Dhamma” without even having an idea of the “world view” of the Buddha. How can one practice, if one does not know what the goal of that exercise is? The goals could be threefold:

  1. to gain some peaceful state of mind in this life
  2. looking at a more extended range, to make sure one will have a better life-experience also in the upcoming births,
  3. to be released from this cycle of rebirths filled with dissatisfaction, and to seek permanent happiness, Nibbāna.

If the goal is one of the above three (and especially if (ii) and (iii)), then one needs to know what the complete “world view” of the Buddha was: This is the Buddha Dhamma.

Original Teachings Are in the Tipitaka

8. It has been over 2500 years since the Buddha declared his message about the previously unknown broader world view. During that time, many distorted versions of Buddha’s teachings appeared. See, “Historical Background.”

  • My goal is to provide a more sensible, logical explanation based on the Theravada Tipitaka that has remained unchanged. I have pointed out that in that section.
  • Throughout this website, I have shown that Buddha Dhamma is self-consistent (within the Tipitaka), and is also compatible with many findings of modern science. See, “Buddha Dhamma: Non-Perceivability and Self-Consistency” and “Dhamma and Science.”

9. Since many are “just-looking” and have no reason to believe the truth of this world view, I am going to present it as a theory. We will be continually testing this theory to see whether it meets the established scientific standards. I am used to that methodology as a scientist.

  • Many people, especially in the earlier times, made that decision on the enhanced EXPERIENCE as they followed the path. As one moves along the Path, this EXPERIENCE starts to transcend the sensory experience or sensual pleasures. There is a crucial difference between the sensory experience and the vastly enhanced experience of a purified mind.
True Nature of This World

10. Now, once one understands what this broader world view is, then one can see that the solution to our problem existence does not depend on trying to probe deeper into material aspects at each step in an endless loop. We do not have enough time in this life to learn all that.

  • Instead, it is just a matter of purifying our minds. A purified mind can “see” through one’s own refined experience as one follows the Path.

11. Stated succinctly; Buddha discovered that the solution to the problem of existence is the failure to “see” the true nature of “this world.” That true nature of this world is even more complicated than what science is finding out. See, “Worldview of the Buddha.”

  • But one only needs to see that “whole picture” and to realize that no matter where we are born, we will never find long-lasting happiness “in this world.” That is because “this world” is inherently ever-changing and that change is unpredictable.
  • Everything “in this world” is in constant flux, but we cannot “see” that because our minds are “too cloudy” or “too impure.”
Different Worldviews

12. There are religious approaches too, but I am going to stay away from that subject. By the way, Buddha Dhamma is not a religion. It is scientific and is based on cause and effect (Paticca Samuppāda.) There are no hypotheses about a Creator. The “conventional scientific method” started with the ancient Greeks, about at the same time that the Buddha lived.

  • So, we have two scientific approaches. The mind-based scientific method of the Buddha, and the conventional matter-based scientific method.
  • Currently, most scientists are trying to figure out how the mind works in terms of the workings of the brain. However, mind is not in the brain.
  • Buddha Dhamma is entirely consistent with the material aspects of science (as we will discuss). But in Buddha Dhamma, the mind precedes matter; matter is secondary.
Three Characteristics of This World

13. Let us go back to the case of slipping on ice that we discussed in Dr. Feynman’s video. To cope with an icy surface, all we need to know is to have prior EXPERIENCE with such a scenario. We also need an alert mind (that is not distracted by alcohol, anger, lust, etc.) to apply that experience to cope with the situation. That is the mind-based approach.

  • When one carefully examines the “world view” within the Buddha Dhamma, one will be able to see that the problem of existence. ALL PARTS of this world are unsatisfactory, and thus one can never maintain anything to one’s liking for long times. See, “Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta.”
  • That is all one needs to really understand, not just to read about. But that is the hardest; that is what requires an effort. Of course, one first needs to read and learn about this “world view.”
Conventional Scientific Approach – The Focus Is on Material Phenomena

14. On the other hand, one could keep going down the line of questions probing deeper to the causes as to why ice is slippery, why does water expand when it is cooled, the nature of chemical bonds, about electrons and protons, about quarks that make up those protons, etc.

  • It is quite right that this probing has led to many technological advances that we all enjoy today. I can write something on this site and get it to you within minutes; it is fantastic and very beneficial. But my point is that all this “probing deeper into material aspects” has not gotten us any closer to the questions on the existence. Right now, science is approaching the limits of this probing because now we know that all matter is just energy.
  • Even though we may benefit from technological advances, such benefits can be enjoyed only for a brief moment (about 100 years) in the samsāric time scale. Buddha Dhamma provides a long-term solution.
Buddha Dhamma – The Focus Is on the Mind

15. What the Buddha stated 2500 years ago was that, in the end, there is no benefit in probing deeper into material properties as far as one’s existence is concerned. All one needs to realize is that no matter what we achieve, they are all transitory, not stable.  That requires purifying one’s mind.

  • When one truly comprehends the three characteristics of existence (see, “Anicca – True Meanings“), and thus the unsatisfactory nature of this existence, one will not seek to gain “material things” but will endeavor to achieve Nibbāna. That only requires purification of one’s mind. It does not require examining the outside material world in detail.
  • When one goes deeper into the Buddha Dhamma, it becomes clear that mental energy is the basis of all existence. But that is a long story. We first need to see whether the “broader world view” of the Buddha makes sense.
  • In 2019, I started a new subsection, “Origin of Life” that gets into a deeper analysis.

Next, “The Grand Unified Theory of Dhamma“,………

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